President Biden is moving quickly to review and revise many of former President Trump’s administrative actions. As I discussed HERE, the fastest mechanisms for these reversals are executive orders (EOs) and slightly less formal executive memoranda from the President or his agency heads. One of the EOs signed on president Biden’s first day of office starts immediate action to review all Trump administrative actions. EO 13990 of January 20, 2021, “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science To Tackle the Climate Crisis”, applies to all federal agencies but focuses on President Trump’s environmental actions. The remainder of this note discusses this particular EO.
Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog
President Biden and the Democratic majorities in Congress have announced sweeping plans to reverse most of the Trump Administration’s environmental policies. The timing and practicality of these reversals depends very much on each of the targeted policy’s legal status – laws, regulations, Executive Orders, or guidance documents. The remainder of this note comments on each of these sets of situations, highlighting examples of each. I’ll discuss them in order ranging from quickest/easiest to most time consuming/difficult.
For nearly a year now, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other agencies have been issuing guidance to employers regarding COIVD-19, including identification, protection, and back-to-work procedures. One of incoming President Biden’s first Executive Orders (EO 13999 of January 21, 2021) directs OSHA to issue updated worker protection guidance to employers within two weeks. On January 29, OSHA met this requirement by publishing “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace,” which it explains is intended for employers and workers to use to identify risks and plan responses. The remainder of this note summarizes OSHA’s new guidance.
The Canadian employment standards acts generally specify a minimum notice period before such terminations (the statutory notice period), and generally allow the employer to pay compensation to the employee instead of giving the employee notice (e.g., Ontario Employment Standards Act (OESA) s. 54-67). This compensation is usually called severance pay; it replaces advance notice of termination (OESA s. 61). In general, the severance pay must equal the salary and benefits that the employee would have earned if permitted to work until the end of the notice period. Courts interpret and defend prohibitions against employment agreements that reduce – “contract out” – termination benefits below these thresholds.Read More
The Clean Air Act (CAA) authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set emission standards for motor vehicles and engines. Although the primary focus is on Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards for new vehicles, set jointly by EPA and the Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) (I’ve discussed ongoing disputes about the latest CAFÉ standards several times, including HERE), EPA and states also have authority over post-sale “aftermarket” equipment and modifications to vehicles.Read More
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has completed a long review, and reaffirmed the primary National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter (PM), including those for PM-10 (particulates with an aerodynamic diameter less than or equal to 10 microns) and PM-2.5 (less than or equal to 2.5 microns; also call “fines”). On December 4, EPA announced it would retain the PM standards set in 2013, despite comments presenting recent scientific evidence – including evidence that higher pollution levels exacerbate harm from COVID-19 -- and seeking tighter standards.
During President Trump’s term, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken a number of steps to narrow benefit-cost analyses (BCAs), reversing expansive approaches used during the Obama Administration and thereby reducing the calculated benefits of environmental and health regulations. EPA announced what will probably be the last such step on December 4, by adopting a new Part 83 in Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) entitled “Increasing Consistency and Transparency in Considering Benefits and Costs in Clean Air Act Rulemaking Process.” (I wrote about less formal guidance in a May 2019 memorandum from EPA Administrator Wheeler to his Assistant Administrators HERE.)
Now that vaccinations against COVID-19 infections are becoming available, employer responses to the pandemic will include when to recommend, support, or even require employee vaccinations. While workplace safety considerations might support all these efforts, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has just issued a reminder that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 require employers to craft their vaccination policies in ways that won’t violate anti-discrimination provisions. The remainder of this note discusses EEOC guidance published on December 16, 2020.Read More
The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to ensure workplace air quality, as part of the agency’s broad mission to protect workers’ safety and health. Instead of a single comprehensive standard, OSHA incorporates air-related issues into standards requiring employers to consider whether workplace conditions might require respiratory protections (which I discussed HERE), and additional standards addressing routine workplace air contaminants (which I discussed HERE), and special hazards of confined spaces (which I discussed HERE). OSHA also applies specific ventilation standards in workplaces that involve abrasive blasting; grinding, polishing, and buffing operations; and spray finishing operations.Read More
The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that employees wear personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary to help protect them against identified workplace hazards. This equipment may protect against physical hazards—hard hats, safety glasses, tinted goggles, steel-toed shoes—or may protect against health hazards—respirators, self-contained breathing apparatus, gloves. OSHA does not formally consider cloth facemasks to be PPE, but does consider them “source control” that may prevent an infected person from spreading the virus – which means that they do provide protection to co-workers. OSHA and most other health and safety agencies therefore do at least recommend masks, and some require them in specified settings. The remainder of this note discusses agencies’ formal provisions regarding masks.